Health & Wellness

Adios Acne

People often say that there's more to health than how you look. That's honestly true; I fully agree with that. But I'll go in a slightly different direction for this post: there's so much more to looking good than just your muscle mass and body fat.

What's the point of having 20 inch arms if you have hardly any hair left on your head? Is it worth being shredded to the bone if every vein on your face looks like it's about to burst? Appearance is important and there's so much more to it than your body composition.

One important area is the skin on your face. Bad acne looks bad to everyone: your boss, your lover, your friends, and even strangers.

Eventually, if you don't get rid of these zits, they might be the first thing people associate with you. Like that kid on "The Fairly Oddparents" with the nasty boil:

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What's his name again? I don't even know honestly and that's my point: his acne suddenly supersedes his actual name.

Let's go over a few ways to avoid getting those nasty zits on your face.

1) Eat Clean

I've noticed that the food I eat has a huge impact on my acne. Normally I eat healthy food throughout the day, but sometimes I slip up and pig out. Recently I ordered a large milkshake and box of large fries from McDonald's; I quickly regretted the decision once I noticed the pimples it caused the day after.

Greasy foods are probably the worst for causing acne. Pizza, french fries, burgers, and fried chicken are such tasty foods, but they're the worst for your acne. It's almost like the grease just transfers right from the food to your face when you eat it. Try to have them in small quantities.

Dairy can produce problematic pimples (say that 3 times fast) as well. Consuming high amounts of milk, yogurt, and protein shakes will have devastating effects on your face. I swore off protein shakes for good once my dermatologist told me it was contributing to my acne and I haven't looked back since. Some people completely swear off dairy from their diet for various reasons. I personally don't condone this (I still have 16 oz of milk and a yogurt everyday), but it would definitely help if you're suffering from bad acne.

Inflammation in general is bad for acne as well, and processed foods are notorious for this. Eating bags of chips and cookies all day will just make your acne worse. Furthermore, some foods are fantastic for preventing inflammation. Kale and other dark leafy greens are a must for keeping inflammation to a minimum. Also, a good fish oil supplement could go a long way in reducing those zits.

2) Chill Out

Stress can have a huge impact on your acne as well. Whenever I freaked out over a test I had coming up like the CPA exam, I always noticed my pimples get nasty and grow beyond my control.

I've noticed some people stress about the smallest things in life too. Someone shifts in front of you on the highway and you suddenly start yelling every swear word that you've ever heard. Why? What is that even accomplishing? I understand that in the moment it's hard to resist the frustration, but if you catch yourself from now on, you'll get to a point where traffic doesn't bother you much at all.

Virtually nothing is worth stressing about. Nothing! The next time something is about to stress you out, simply breathe deeply and slowly. While you're at it, keep in mind that there's a much bigger picture to life; whatever's annoying you at the moment won't matter 10 years or maybe even 10 days from now.

Unless someone is holding a gun to your face or a car is about to smash into you, there isn't really anything you should lose your mind over. I used to stress about the dumbest things in the world and it did nothing for me.

3) Wipe It Off

I've noticed that myself, and others as well, tend to get a lot of moisture and dirt on their face as the day goes on. Be sure to take a clean cloth or tissue to wipe your face a couple times each day; leaving that grease unaddressed could lead to future skin problems on your face.

It might seem out of the ordinary, but I've found Chipotle napkins to be especially good at this. I crave Chipotle's food more than almost anything, so knowing that I can bring a few of their napkins home to keep my face clean is yet another reason to love that food company.

Worst case you could always use your hands. Go to the restroom to wash your hands thoroughly, dry them, then gently wipe your face. Wash your hands again and you've successfully removed all the oil that could have led to nasty zits.

4) Buy Topical Treatments

I'm all for natural causes, but sometimes the aforementioned tricks won't fully get rid of the acne. In that case, you should turn to some topical remedy to apply to your face.

Also, be sure to use a cleansing lotion for your face when you shower. Neutrogena has some great stuff that I use. This product is relatively cheap and really seems to work well. Feel free to rub it on your shoulders and back if acne pops up there as well.

The simplest thing you can do is keep trying different brands until you find one that works. Talk to your relatives: bad acne sometimes has a genetic component and there's a good chance someone in your family has found a product that does the trick.

5) Hydrate

Skimping on your water intake can lead to a variety of health problems, including your acne. Water influences nearly every process in your body, including those related to your skin.

I personally drink about a gallon each day on my rest days, and on my workout days, that number is probably closer to 1.5 gallons. The amount varies from person to person, but you should be drinking enough water so that you urinate every 1 - 2 hours throughout the day.

Wrap Up

There you go! Some great ways to fight off acne and keep your skin clean.

Oh, and apparently Elmer was the name of the kid from "The Fairly Oddparents" I referenced above; who knew?

Sleep Reloaded

You know who's a hilarious actor? Joe Pesci. A movie of his that I watched recently was My Cousin Vinny (yep, I'm almost 25 and I've never seen this classic before now; kind of pathetic when I think about it)

The movie has tons of jokes and wit that will keep you laughing throughout the story. But what truly struck me was the running gag of Vinny's sleep. Save for a night in jail, this man spent nearly a week preparing for a court case and sleeping no more than 3 hours per night. Whether it was a freight train or a horde of pigs, something was always waking Vinny up in the morning.

Although, sometimes he had a more fun reason to stay up at night:

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Obviously it's a movie, but it struck a chord with me because I understand how little sleep that really is. I had one of my worst nights of sleep in years recently. I'm not even sure how it happened; I lied down in bed, totally relaxed, yet ended up tossing and turning for hours and hours. I slept maybe 2 hours total that night.

I don't always sleep this badly. Normally I sleep 7 or 8 hours consistently from night to night, usually waking up no more than once. Back in the day I was never a good sleeper; I did a post on sleep a while back, but I've experimented with some different tricks since then and felt the need to blog about the subject once again.

Here are the top tips for sleeping better at night.

1) Stay Active During the Day

This is probably one of the biggest tips I've come across recently. I've noticed huge differences in my sleep on days where I'm very active compared to days when I'm not.

Imagine for a moment that you didn't have to move at all. Someone would bring you diapers for your bathroom needs, meals when you get hungry, and anything else you would desire. All you would have to do is sit in your chair for 16 hours or so.

Now, imagine trying to fall asleep at night after all that. There's no way you'd be able to! Humans are not designed like sloths; we need to move during the day.

The simplest thing to do is to exercise daily or close to that frequency. Even 15 - 20 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning can do wonders for your sleep. During the work week, I don't even perform my lifting workouts; I just do sprinting workouts on my treadmill. They're quick and really get my heart rate going in the A.M.

Being active is more than just formal exercise, however. Get in the habit of taking more breaks at your job. Many of us working in sedentary jobs within corporate offices; it's imperative that you get up every hour to walk around, get your mind off work, and keep yourself active. If you find yourself in meetings throughout the day, that might help honestly since you're constantly moving from one conference room to the next.

Furthermore, get yourself exposed to bright light from the moment you wake up. Ideally you'd be able to get sunlight once you roll out of bed, but this isn't always the case; I've found artificial blue light generators to be helpful for waking me up on cloudy or rainy days.

2) Lights Out

The light that your eyes view has a huge impact on your circadian rhythyms

Blue light has gotten quite a bad rap in recent years for the effects it has on sleep. Research on it has pushed people to totally avoid television and computer screens at night. And there is truth in that blue light can negatively impact your sleep.

However, what matters much more is the brightness of lights rather than their color. Which do you think would harm your sleep quality more: staring at lights on a football field at night, or looking at a picture of the ocean on your dimly lit Mac? I don't care how blue that ocean is; the field lights are

So yeah, it's totally okay to watch television at night. Put on something funny like The Office so you can have a laugh before you go to bed. Just try to keep the brightness of your television or computer low, otherwise your sleep could suffer.

Also, make sure you close the curtains, especially in the summer. If you're watching the sunset at 8 P.M. but trying to fall asleep by 10, it's probably not gonna happen. Light is great for waking you up and keeping you awake, but when you need to fall asleep, that light will be no help to you. Close the curtains by 7:00 P.M. and sit in dimly lit rooms in the hour approaching bedtime.

3) Do Dinner Right

The meal you have before bedtime is important. I've had countless nights where I slept terribly simply because my last meal before bed was improper. Here are some key elements for a good dinner before you snooze:

  • Moderate portion sizes
  • High dietary fat
  • Low in carbs
  • Low in sugar
  • Low in fiber
  • Moderate amount of protein
  • No caffeine
  • No alcohol
  • Foods high in trytophan (eggs, walnuts, bananas, etc.)

Eat a meal like this 2 - 3 hours before bed and you'll sleep like a baby.

4) Relax

Stress is one of the worst things for your sleep; it's not easy to fall asleep at night if you have a million thoughts running through your head. Issues at work, relationship drama, financial problems... these are just some of the many things that could be stressing the crud out of you.

No matter how old or young you are, you'll always have some kind of stress in your life. People in high school and people in retirement have no daily jobs to worry about, yet there are plenty of stressed teenagers and senior citizens out there.

Here are just a few ways to relax at night:

  • Pray
  • Meditate
  • Read
  • Watch TV
  • Play an instrument
  • Bond with loved ones

5) Get Comfy

Being comfortable is essential for falling asleep. I envy my friends who can crash at apartments on a couch or even the floor; I've never been able to sleep like that.

Room temperature is incredibly important for falling asleep. The room should be relatively cool (70 degrees or lower) if you want to achieve restful sleep.

The pillow and mattress you use are also key to your sleep hygiene. If you find yourself constantly waking at night, that could be a sign your mattress or pillow just aren't up to par. For those of you who sleep with a partner, be sure to use a mattress where your movements won't disturb your lover's and vice versa.

Also, for those of you who have beards like myself, try to find the right length that it's comfortable. Short and long beards can prevent you from getting your head comfortable on the pillow; you need to find a gray area in between for comfort. I have 6 settings on my trimmer and know which one to trim my facial hair with every week. Also, trim it first thing in the morning; I made the mistake of trimming mine at night recently and it itched like crazy!

6) Stop Caring about Sleep

This one is counter-intuitive, I know, but it's helped me quite a bit recently.

If you've struggled with sleep enough, you get to the point where you're just obsessed with it; all you think about and desire is getting enough sleep, catching up on lost sleep, getting deeper sleep, etc. I've been at this point countless times myself, so trust me, it's not worth obsessing over!

Look, I'm not downplaying the value of sleep; it's vital to everyone's health. But there's so much more to your health than just sleep. I know guys who sleep over 10 hours a day that look terrible despite this. There's so much you can control outside of your sleep (how much water you drink, what foods you eat, how you respond to stressful situations, your exercise routine, etc.)

Try to re-frame how you view sleep. Frankly, you might not need as much sleep as some people do; maybe that's why you're always having with it in the first place. They might be exceptions, but there are quite a number of people in the world who need no more than 5 or 6 hours a night; you just might be one of those lucky few.

So the next time you lie in bed wide awake, don't freak out about your sleep! Learn to let go of things and you might just end up falling asleep anyway.

Wrap Up

I truly sympathize with any of you who have trouble sleeping. It's something that comes so naturally to some people yet is a constant struggle for the rest of us.

If you've been having a hard time sleeping, please leave a comment; I'd be happy to give you more tips or clarify anything aforementioned in this post.

Water Wonders

People are always looking for a quick fix when it comes to health and fitness. Companies in the industry take advantage of this: they market their products as the solution to all your frustrations. The harsh truth is this: no single product is going to get to your goals. There's no pill you could take to instantly lose 50 lbs of fat; even weight loss surgeries, which do work, necessitate that you change your lifestyle after the surgery to maintain your new body.

There is no quick fix in fitness. But there are basic things you could start doing that would benefit every aspect of your lifestyle, both inside and outside of the gym. To me, one of these basic things is drinking more water.

Water itself is simple. It has no taste and no calories. Frankly, it's the most important thing that I consume in my diet. More important than creatine... more important than kale... more important than eggs. All of these are staples in my diet, but water is phenomenal. It affects so many different aspects of your health.

People can survive a week without food. Heck, some people can even stay wide awake for a few days straight and barely survive. But if you go 2 days without water, you will die. 48 hours and it's game over.

But nobody seems to drink enough of it. The vast majority of people are dehydrated, including some who live active lifestyles. Could you imagine what happened if you stopped drinking water, period? I mean think about what happened to SpongeBob without it:

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He doesn't look Insta-worthy here, does he? The same might happen to you if you skimp on water!

Seriously though, let's look at some specifics of why water is so important.

Muscle Building

Water plays a big role in building big muscles. Your muscles are mostly made of water. Hypothetically, if you ripped out your muscles and sapped them of any water content, you would be left with tiny strings of organic tissue; your swole arms would suddenly be smaller than your wrists! When properly hydrated, however, your muscles are large and with big veins to boot.

You notice the impact of water on the muscles at the gym especially. Think about when you get a pump doing high reps on curls or another exercise. Your muscles are inflating due to water temporarily being (too bad it's temporary; I wouldn't mind my muscles looking pumped 24/7) stored there during the workout.

Drinking sufficient water before, during, and after your workouts is key for optimal muscle gains. I usually take sips between every set of my workout to make sure I'm properly hydrated. This is even more important during cardio workouts than during lifting workouts; going for a run leaves you sweating far more than sets of Deadlifts and Overhead Press.

Fat Loss

Water facilitates your fat loss process as well. Water helps detox your body and triggers your fat burning processes. If you're currently trying to lose weight but aren't drinking much water, you're sabotaging yourself. You need to keep yourself hydrated in order to promote fat loss and retain your muscle.

Being dehydrated has a noticeable effect on your belly as well. There's a thin layer over your abs that isn't fat: it's water. When you're not drinking enough water, your body thinks that you're dehydrated and retains any water it has in response. The layer blurs the muscle definition you would normally see in your six pack. So even though technically this subcutaneous water layer isn't fat, it's still no good for your physique.

Immune System

Health is far more than just fat and muscle. Your immune system is a vital organ system and can hinder your fitness if not taken care of. I usually get a cold once, maybe twice a year, and I never had an immune system this strong in high school or earlier. Back in the day I would get sick 4 times a year or more. By living a healthier lifestyle, however, I've managed to avoid this. Water plays a key role in this process.

What's the most common tip mothers tell their children when they get sick? It's to drink plenty of fluids; water is the best fluid that there is. Whether you have a minor cold or a serious infection, drinking water will help you flush the germs out of your system and restore your body to its healthy state.

My Recommendation

Water needs will vary from person to person, but generally, I would say 1 gallon a day should keep you covered. If you spend a lot of time outside in the heat or exercise rigorously each day, you might need even more than that. Personally, I drink my water out of a 25 ounce Swell bottle and I fill it up at least 4 times a day. I usually sip out of it every 10 minutes throughout the day.

An even simpler rule is this: drink enough water that you urinate every 1 - 2 hours. Also, your urine should be clear; a yellow color, especially one with a dark tint, hints that you're dehydrated at the moment.

Now this 1 gallon amount includes all fluids in your system. So if you're drinking juice or milk, those count too. Vegetables and fruits contain trace amounts of water as well; all of these thing add up toward that 1 gallon number. Coffee and tea are diuretics, but they're still liquids you're pouring into your system.

It's really not hard to do this! Drinking enough water is simpler than any other fix you need to make in your training. Correctly performing the Squat or other exercises can be complex, but there's nothing easier than filling up a bottle throughout the day and drinking from it.

Wrap Up

There you go guys! Simple enough, I think. Start drinking more water and you'll notice amazing results across all aspects of your life.

Sayonara Stress

In hindsight, I used to let stress get the better of me.

I was always the most serious one in my family: especially as a teenager, if things went wrong, I took them very personally and that didn't nothing for my personal well being.

In the early years of my lifting, I was that guy who would scream and shout and yell if the workouts didn't go my way. Thankfully, I was lifting out of my basement at that time, but even so.

Quick tip: turns out screaming at the top of your lungs does NOT turn you into a Super Saiyan.

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Fast forward to today, and I've found ways to be more relaxed both inside and outside of the gym.

The good thing about stress though is you can actively find ways to get rid of it. It's not a virus or cancer lacking a cure; there are simple steps you can implement to kick its butt.

1) Deep Breathing

You can survive weeks without food, days without water... but if you stop breathing, you'll only last for a few minutes. This speaks volumes regarding the effect your breathing has on your life.

Normally, our breath is an involuntary process, which is all well and good. I wouldn't want to be responsible for actively controlling my own breathing throughout the day. When you're feeling stressed out, however, it's time to turn autopilot off and take control of your breath.

Breathe slowly into your belly (not your chest) for a count of 4; hold that breath for a count of 4, and then exhale for a count of 5. The timing may seem oddly specific here, but if done correctly, this will help you relax immediately.

2) Sleep

There is a strong correlation between your sleep and your stress. Think back to when you were in grade school. You probably slept 8 - 10 hours a night without a care in the world. Although you have more responsibilities today, you can experience that same effect simply by making sleep a priority.

I understand that you're busy; some people are trying to hustle and work their hardest. Frankly though, many of you just aren't making the time for sleep. Stop trying to attend social events during the week; those are for the weekend. If you have a show airing at 9 PM or later, save it for the DVR and just go to bed.

If you want more specific tips for healthy sleep, I have a full post on just that.

3) Give Me a Break

You should also make it a habit to take more frequent breaks during the day, especially when you're at work. This could be difficult for those of you who have advanced in your careers and have meetings almost constantly through the day, but still try to adhere to this.

For example, instead of taking a 60 to 90 minute lunch, maybe try eating lunch at your desk and instead taking 10 minute breaks throughout the day.

Or maybe try a different type of break. Does your job offer meditation or yoga classes during the day? Maybe speak with your supervisor and see if you can allocate your time in order to attend those.

The same goes for when you're at home. Are your parents and siblings just totally getting on your nerves? Well, get out of the house for a while and hang out with some people; no use sitting around in a toxic environment.

4) Music

I love music; it's part of what motivated me to take guitar lessons way back when. Did you realize how much of an effect music can have you on though?

Consider this: imagine you're listening to a symphony by Beethoven. The cadence and tempo of the piano drifts you to a peaceful place, possibly putting you to sleep.

Now imagine the track suddenly switches and "X Gon' Give It to Ya" by DMX starts blasting. Even if you're in your home, you'll probably get tense, as if you're about to fight someone.

I have a specific playlist on Spotify for when I'm working at the office; it's mostly EDM music with little to no vocals. This helps me focus on my work without stressing me out.

When you're home after work or class, maybe have specific songs you listen to just to unwind. Pick something to help you relax and empty your mind in the hours before bed.

5) Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

This is something I've noticed quite a bit as of late. Some people are just flat out miserable, but there's no good reason for it. A guy might refill his water bottle in the kitchen and start dropping f bombs repeatedly if it overflows. People scream at the wheel and blare their horn when an accident adds 15 minutes to their commute.

Is it really worth stressing about if it won't make a difference 5 years from now? Probably not, so why let it get to you?

If you normally lose your mind over the tiniest hiccup, make a conscious effort not to from now on. Try to see the forest through the trees; there's a much bigger picture to life that you'll never see if you're obsessed over the coffee you spilled on your kitchen table this morning.

6) Get Out

There's something about being in the outdoors that seems to bring us back to our roots. Even if it's something as short as a 15 minute walk, going outside for a moment can help you get fresh air and clear your mind from the nonsense bothering you.

Now obviously, if you live in an urban environment or if it's freezing outside, leaving your house might not seem like the most comfortable idea at first. But it's still worth the effort (some people aren't bothered by city life or the cold; I'm personally not a fan of either).

7) Exercise

Exercise can be one of the most effective forms of stress relief. If you've had a terrible day, letting out all your frustrations in a grueling gym sesh might be just what you need to do.

Now, I'm not a fan of going into EVERY workout like a gorilla; carrying that kind of anger with you week to week just isn't healthy.

But sometimes you NEED to have an angry workout; grip the bar as hard as you want to grab the person or thing that pissed you off. And once you've busted your butt through the workout, you'll find it's easier to let it go.

Some stress is hard to overcome: losing a loved one, being laid off, breaking up with someone... these things are very painful to go through. Exercise, however, can help you let loose.

Wrap Up

I hope these tips helped you out! Stress is never worth experiencing, so you might as well try to limit it as much as possible.

Try these tips and you'll see improvement in your fitness, your relationships, and your life in general.

Fitness Tips for Workaholics

Fitness Tips for Workaholics

These last 2 months got pretty busy for me.

I worked no less than 60 hours during each week. For a short while, it got close to 80 hours each week. This was a huge shock for me; I was in the office so much that I barely had time to sleep 5 hours a night.

And no, I'm not one of those people who claims they can operate on low sleep. If you're one of those people... I hate you.

All right, I don't HATE you, but why even bother reading this? Unless maybe you need more sleep than you think?

When your job takes a huge priority in your life though, it's hard to do much else.